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Sentences handed down for Julie and Andrea Matau

fili@samoanews.com

Former grant administrator of the now closed U’una’i Legal Service Corporation has been ordered by the federal court in Oakland, Calif., to report in May to a designated federal detention center to start serving out her jail term after being sentenced yesterday.

Julie Matau, who served for a time as U’una’i office manager, pled guilty last December to wire fraud while her daughter, Andrea Matau, a former U’una’i legal assistant, pled guilty to misdemeanor theft of federal funds. Both appeared yesterday before U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken for sentencing.

The mother and daughter were accused of stealing close to $160,000 in federal funds awarded to U’una’i.  Prosecutors say more than $128,000 went to Matau and her family members instead of low-income victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse.

Prosecutors recommended 30 months in jail for Julie Matau while 12 months probation was recommended for the daughter.

However, Wilken sentenced Julie Matau to 12 months and a day in prison and she was also ordered to serve three years of supervised release, to include 8 hours a week of community service for the entire time, U.S. Justice Department spokesperson Laura Sweeney told Samoa News yesterday afternoon after the sentence was handed down.

The judge also ordered Julie Matau to pay $159,763 in restitution, to be paid jointly and severally with Andrea Matau. Julie Matau is to self-surrender on May 29, said Sweeney via e-mail from Washington D.C.

Andrea Matau was ordered to serve 12 months' probation, to include six months of home detention. The judge ordered Andrea Matau to provide eight hours a week of community service for the entire 12 months, said Sweeney.

Sweeney said the federal judge ordered $31,292 of the $159,763 to be paid by the two defendants jointly and severally with Wagner, assuming that Wagner is also ordered to pay restitution in that amount. Wagner will be sentenced Apr. 2 at the federal court in St. Louis, Missouri.

Julie Matau’s attorney Assistant Federal Public Defender Elizabeth Falk didn’t immediately reply to Samoa News e-mail questions seeking comments in this case.

But in a final statement filed yesterday morning before sentencing, Falk dismissed claims by the prosecutors that her client failed to accept responsibility for her conduct.

“Ms. Matau submitted a lengthy, signed statement acknowledging her wrongdoing in the Presentence Report where she fully admits that it was both morally and legally wrong to take compensatory time payments as excess salary without authorization,” said Falk.

“She admits that she knew such actions were wrong at the time she did them and as a result, the parties are not proceeding to trial in this matter but instead proceeded by guilty plea,” said Falk and noted that her client also expressed remorse for hurting the U’una’i clientele by playing a role in the reason the organization had to shut down.

She also dismissed claims by the government that “Julie Matau did no good at all for the people of American Samoa and is single-handedly responsible for the downfall” of U’una’i.

“This position is a gross overstatement of the situation and was flatly contradicted by the defense’s investigation of this case, whereby employees and clients alike who were interviewed commented about Julie Matau’s tireless effort to help victims of domestic violence in American Samoa and the fact that she worked extremely hard to meet the caseload demands of ULSC’s numerous clients,” said Falk.

The defense did acknowledge that some past employees and Board members of ULSC harbor justified resentment against Julie Matau for her unlawful conduct.

“By failing to acknowledge the good with the bad, and failing to acknowledge the challenges facing ULSC that ultimately led to its shutdown having nothing to do with Ms. Matau, the government’s memorandum overstates its case and completely misses the fact that human beings who commit crimes are not uniformly rotten to the core,” she points out.

Although the defendant made a huge error in judgment and a serious mistake through her action, “this does not mean she is a horrible human being completely unworthy of a shred of compassion from this court,” said Falk, who maintained her client should be sentenced to one-year and one-day of home confinement.



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